Opportunities for First and Second Year College Students

By Pamela E. Harris, Ralph Morrison, and Cindy Wyels

There are many opportunities for undergrads to engage in mathematics research over the summer, including Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs and math-oriented internships.  However, many of these programs are aimed at rising seniors or rising juniors who have already taken upper-level math classes, and they often require coursework in abstract algebra and/or real analysis.  What if you’re excited about engaging in a summer opportunity in mathematics, but you’re a rising sophomore who’s only completed the calculus sequence, and maybe linear algebra? Or what if you’re at a Community College that only offers a few math courses beyond the calculus sequence? We have good news for you! There are some fantastic opportunities aimed at students like you, and we’ve compiled some of them in this  spreadsheet(Please note that the spreadsheet allows anyone to add comments and access to edit is available upon request. We encourage everyone to add information on any other programs they may be aware of that we may have missed. For those further along in their mathematics journey you can check out this list compiled by Dr. William Yslas Vélez.)

In each case we gleaned what information we could from the program’s website, or from the program organizers; we admit that some of this information may be out-of-date, and all of it is subject to change. Visiting these websites directly and contacting the organizers is a great way to get more up-to-date information. The spreadsheet also includes some programs that might not be running in 2021, so do pay attention to whether they’re officially running or not.  Also pay close attention to funding: unfortunately, most programs only provide funding for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents. 

In addition to these programs, we strongly recommend that students interested in these sorts of opportunities do some searching for additional programs and also practice self-advocacy in the process. 

On advocating for yourself: embrace the notion and practice it frequently. Whatever math background you have, know that you belong in higher education and in mathematics. So always seek out opportunities and ask your professors and mentors about programs that might be available to you. Even if you get told that they don’t know of any or if you apply and get rejected or told no – that’s better than the lack of an opportunity had you not inquired nor applied. At a minimum, the person you asked knows you’re interested in these programs and will share them with you as they learn of them. Also you now have an application that you can edit and tailor for future applications to such programs. 

How do you seek programs and opportunities? What might you search for, and where should you search? First, ask around at your own institution. Many institutions have organizations and programs that aim to advance students academically – look for things like MESA, LSAMP, McNair Scholars, RISE – these are all grant-funded programs that exist around the country. Your institution might have one or more, and depending on how such a program is structured, it might have student research as a component. Other state or institutional programs might include funding for summer research for students. Search for “student research” on your college’s website and ask academic advisors and faculty. And keep your eyes open – skim all those generic emails you get from your institution. You never know which one will announce that Big University has just partnered with Your Community College and will be offering a research program this coming summer. Similarly, you don’t know what professor has a research grant that allows her to hire 1 – 2 research assistants. Ask, ask, ask – and if the answer is “I don’t know of anything” your best response is “Thank you for thinking it over. Please keep me in mind should you hear of anything later!”

We look forward to hearing from you about what new opportunities you uncover and what you learn in the process of self-advocating! 


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